For many people, drinking and boating just seem to go together. As you pull away from the dock, you see countless boaters with one hand on the wheel and a beer in the other hand. Even if they don't actively drink and drive, you know that plenty of people anchor their boats and spend the afternoon drinking and swimming, only to drive back as night falls, still intoxicated.
Many of these same people would never drink and drive on the highway. They know it's illegal in a car, and they know it's dangerous. But they take a more relaxed view of drinking on the water because that afternoon in the sun feels like a vacation.
But are they still breaking the law?
The legal limit
In a car, the legal limit is a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08%. The same is true in a boat. Ohio law prohibits drinking and operating a watercraft just like it prohibits more traditional drinking and driving on land. There is no difference, no matter what people think or how "relaxed" of a view they take.
On top of that, if the police have other evidence that someone was impaired by alcohol -- maybe they caused an accident, for instance, by running into another watercraft -- then they can use a BAC that comes in under the 0.08% limit in court. Don't assume it's not drunk boating just because someone is under that line. If they give police reason to think it impaired their driving, they can still face charges even under 0.08%.
The law is even more strict for those who are under 21 years old. They cannot have a BAC that exceeds 0.02%. This limit is so low that it basically means they cannot drink at all -- since they're under the legal drinking age -- and then drive a boat.
After an accident
What does this mean for you? Well, you may fully understand that drinking and boating is illegal. You may feel shocked by the amount of people who seem to shrug it off and act like it's not a big deal.
If one of those impaired drivers causes an accident, you could suffer serious injuries. Because of how remote these accidents are and the added danger of being in a body of water, the risk of life-changing injuries or the death of a loved one is very high. One little mistake can cause a tragic crash.
When that happens, you need to know if you have a right to financial compensation. This can help you cover expenses like medical costs, lost wages and even funeral costs. Make sure you understand what legal options you have this summer.